Warwicks (272 for four declared and 177) bt Hants (311 & 133) by five runs
In the most dramatic finale Warwickshire, the defending champions, saved their necks by beating Hampshire by five runs, and condemned Yorkshire to Division Two next season.
Warwickshire won the championship last season by coming from behind in the last session of the final day, and did something similar by winning only their second championship game of this season at the death.
In championship cricket the financial penalties for being demoted are minimal – a few more members may resign – but for a county as demoralised as Yorkshire have been during the Azeem Rafiq affair it is a blow they did not need.
Warwickshire won on the back of some heroic bowling by Cornish-born Liam Norwell who took nine Hampshire wickets for 62 runs. Norwell not only bowled himself into the ground but possibly on to the plane to Pakistan as a reserve pace bowler for the Test series in December.
"This morning didn't go as planned,” Norwell said afterwards. “We wanted to set them much more towards 200 but we just had to keep believing and we were backed up brilliantly by the fielders. Just like on the last day of last season, the crowd kept us going and it's a day that will live long in the memory, and now we have got to push on and make sure we are not in this position again.
"I don't know what I was thinking at the end. I just went mad. All the emotions came out and I was nearly in tears. It means a lot to me because I feel I have let the lads down by being out injured so much this season, so I hope that helping us stay up has repaid the guys a little bit."
There were few clouds on Yorkshire’s horizon at the start of this dramatic day, even though they had lost their final game to bottom-of-the-table Gloucestershire. Warwickshire were only 23 runs ahead of Hampshire with eight wickets left in their second innings, and time was pressing.
Warwickshire did not appear to have scored enough when they were dismissed for 177, as they set Hampshire only 140 to win – which the visitors were keen to do in order to seize second place from Lancashire.
Sam Hain had a leg injury and his runner was run out cheaply. Only Dom Sibley with 77, in his last innings for Warwickshire before returning to Surrey, gave the defending champions something to bowl at.
Oliver Hannon-Dalby – who has carried Warwickshire’s attack all season as Chris Woakes, Ollie Stone and Norwell have been injured, while Tim Bresnan of last year’s championship-winning side retired – took Hampshire’s first wicket.
Norwell took the next nine wickets, three of them leg-before, the most controversial decision being the verdict against the left-handed Nick Gubbins, who was struck by Norwell bowling round the wicket and, as replays suggested, outside the line. Gubbins had been calmly steering Hampshire to their target in his 46.
Warwickshire had sensed the possibilities when Hampshire’s captain James Vince did not sell his wicket dearly. He tried to pull a ball from Norwell that was not sufficiently short and miscued a catch to long-leg: Hampshire 49 for four.
James Fuller, in an eighth wicket stand of 33 with Gubbins, took Hampshire up to 124 for seven. Thereupon, for the umpteenth time this season, the red Dukes ball had to be changed and Norwell took the prime wicket of Gubbins with the very next ball – and that leg-before verdict.
Hampshire needed only seven runs to win when Norwell, still pounding in, knocked out Fuller’s middle stump. Crucially five balls in his over remained, and Hampshire’s number eleven can claim to be the worst batsman in county cricket. Mohammad Abbas, after surviving three balls from Norwell, chose to wander across his stumps to leg-glance, missed, and was given leg-before in a less contentious decision.
Nottinghamshire won the Division Two title by defeating Durham by 462 runs, so they and second-placed Middlesex will replace Gloucestershire and Yorkshire in the ten-team Division One.
“It [the title] is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” said the Nottinghamshire head coach Peter Moores. “To have a moment when the sun comes out in front of our pavilion, and Steve [Mullaney the captain] picks up a trophy, is absolutely fantastic.
“Last year we probably won more games than anyone else in the competition, so it felt a tough one to ask us to start in Division Two again. But when we got put there, because of what happened in 2019 rather than last year, none of the players complained. I didn’t hear one moan or groan or anything.
“We just said we’d take this year as another chance to get better. As a club we believe in helping people to get better because that will all go into helping us win things in the future, so when you do get over the line and win a trophy, it always feels special.”
Durham meanwhile have been penalised again by the ECB. This time they had ten points deducted because their Australian batsman Nic Maddinson had been found using a bat greater than the legal width.